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The Austen Family Music Books

Resources digitised by the Library Digitisation Unit, University of Southampton

This collection consists of eighteen printed and manuscript music books owned by members of the Austen family, including the writer Jane Austen, in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Many are binder’s volumes, compiled from separate manuscript or printed sheet music items bound together for an individual user. Others are personal manuscript albums made wholly or principally by a single copyist. Although some volumes were compiled as early as the 1750s, the majority date from Jane A...

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This collection consists of eighteen printed and manuscript music books owned by members of the Austen family, including the writer Jane Austen, in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Many are binder’s volumes, compiled from separate manuscript or printed sheet music items bound together for an individual user. Others are personal manuscript albums made wholly or principally by a single copyist. Although some volumes were compiled as early as the 1750s, the majority date from Jane Austen’s lifetime (1775-1817). Austen made or used several of the books, and she was probably familiar with music collected by other family members.

The collection brings together nearly 600 pieces, mainly songs and works for keyboard or harp, by both international figures and British composers. The books present a vivid picture of domestic musical culture in England in the years around 1800, furnishing valuable insights on music making in the homes of gentry families as well as essential contextualisation for musical episodes in Austen’s fiction.

RIGHTS This collection is provided for research purposes only and includes material owned by several different rights holders. To obtain permissions for reproduction or publication, contact the rights holder for the image(s) you require. Rights holders are identified in the information pages supplied for each volume.

SEARCHING THE COLLECTION (updated January 2022)

The University of Southampton online library catalogue includes detailed records for all the books and the individual pieces within them. Records were prepared by Dr Gillian Dooley between 2017-2021, and provide information on dating, attributions, and other aspects of pieces of music in the Austen family collection. The catalogue records are on the University of Southampton Library Catalogue and are also incorporated into the UK academic library catalogue JISC/COPAC, and in WorldCat. A search on "Austen Family Music Books" should find 551 records. To find individual items, search on "Austen music" plus keywords from title or composer.

Recent history and provenance

This overview covers the recent history of the group of books digitised in this collection. Descriptions of individual volumes, including information on current location, ownership and copyright, appear with the images from each book.

By the early twentieth century, most or all of the volumes in this collection were held in the Knight family library at Chawton House, Chawton, Hampshire. Jane Austen’s older brother Edward Austen Knight inherited the estate from wealthy childless relatives, and the books may originally have been brought there by his daughter Fanny Knight, Lady Knatchbull. Whether the music arrived in the Knight library through Fanny Knight or via another relation, the Austen books kept at Chawton House became more widely known in the 1930s. Elisabeth M. Lockwood described some of them in an article for Music & Letters (Lockwood 1934) and around the same time, the Winchester-based composer Sir George Dyson began using them for lecture-recitals (unsigned review, "Miss Jane Austen's Music Books - A Winchester Concert," The Times, 2 October 1936, 17).

The books remained in family hands until after World War II, when a portion of the collection was donated in aid of new initiatives to commemorate Jane Austen’s life and career. The Jane Austen Society had been founded in 1940 to raise funds for the preservation of the former steward’s house on the Chawton estate where Jane Austen lived from 1809 to 1817. In 1947, responding to an appeal from the Jane Austen Society, T. Edward Carpenter bought the house from the Knight family, and Jane Austen’s House Museum opened to the public in July 1949. Beryl Bradford, a descendent of Edward Austen Knight, donated a set of music volumes and a pair of loose manuscript sheets to the Jane Austen Memorial Trust – the body formed to operate the Museum – as part of the effort to assemble significant materials for display.

Carpenter announced Bradford's donation of nine volumes of music in the Jane Austen Society's Report for 1952 (Collected Reports of the Jane Austen Society 1949-1965, reprint ed., Chippenham, Wiltshire: Jane Austen Society, 1996, 33). The bindings were in poor condition, and Carpenter wrote that the Department of Printed Books of the British Museum carried out some necessary repairs. Mollie Sands provided a brief account of the books’ contents in the 1956 Report (Sands 1956; copies of Sands's manuscript notes on the collection are held by Jane Austen's House Museum). Sands's notes also confirm the presence of two unbound manuscript music leaves that were apparently found folded into one of the donated volumes, probably CHWJA/ 19/1, and one unbound piece of sheet music.

A further Austen music book (CHWJA/19/6) was donated to the Jane Austen Society c.1964 by Cassandra Hardy, also a descendent of Edward Austen Knight. There is no note of the date of the donation in the Jane Austen Society’s Report, but an article by Elizabeth Jenkins described the book and specified that within living memory it had always lain on the piano at Chawton House (Jenkins 1964). This volume was subsequently kept with the earlier donation to the Jane Austen Memorial Trust. In September 2015 the Jane Austen Society formally transferred ownership of this album to Jane Austen’s House Museum.

In the 1970s, the Jane Austen Society's Reports included an article by Diana Shervington with comments on Italian music in the Austen volumes in the Museum’s keeping (Shervington 1972), and a detailed account of the Austen "scrapbook" CHWJA/19/7 by Robin Wallace (Wallace 1979). Since then at least one volume, a bound copy of Domenico Corri’s Select Collection of Choice Music for the Harpsichord or Piano Forte (c.1790) owned by Jane Austen, has been lost; it was still present c.1978 when it was consulted by Patrick Piggott (Piggott 1979, 145-46) but had disappeared by the time Jon A. Gillaspie examined the collection c. 1987 (Gillaspie c.1990, 6).

Since the 1990s there has been significant interest in the Museum's music books and considerable further study and conservation. The eight volumes and two unbound manuscript leaves in the Museum’s collection that date from Jane Austen's lifetime or earlier were fully catalogued (Gammie and McCulloch 1996); and in the late 1990s these books were professionally photographed for the first time through a partnership between the Museum and Dr Miriam Hart of Ohio University. Between 2003 and 2005, J. Surridge of Winton Fine Art completed extensive cleaning and repairs with funding from the Jane Austen Society of North America. Studies drawing principally on these books include Selwyn 1999, Sandock 2001, and Morgan 2009, and numerous recordings of selected music from this set are available. The Museum's ninth remaining volume, compiled by Austen's nieces in 1823-24, was not included in the catalogue or subsequent studies.

This digital collection also includes images of nine further books of Austen music, some of which were compiled or copied by the same original owners as the better-known volumes held by Jane Austen's House Museum. At the time Beryl Bradford made her donation to the Museum, she offered seven further volumes from the Knight family library to the Jenkyns family, descendants of Jane Austen’s eldest brother James Austen. Piggott (1979, 155-64) refers to them as the “Second Collection." In 1975 and 1976, they were used by the tenor Peter Pears for concerts at the Aldeburgh festival and elsewhere in aid of the Festival's fundraising efforts (Aldeburgh Festival programme book, 1975; typescript concert programme, Claydon House, Bucks., 1976). Jon A. Gillaspie catalogued the set in 1987 (Gillaspie 1987). The current owner, Professor Richard Jenkyns, inherited the books from his father Henry Leigh Jenkyns in 2007. Between 2009 and 2012, the books were on deposit at Chawton House Library. During this time Samantha Carrasco prepared a new handlist of the contents, combining them with the contents of the Jane Austen’s House Museum set and two newly discovered Austen volumes from the Knight collection (see below; Carrasco 2013). In addition to Piggott 1979 and Carrasco 2013, studies drawing on both the Jenkyns and Museum sets include Libin 2013.

Two other volumes of Austen music remained in the Knight family library, unknown to the family or to scholars until they were rediscovered in 2009. The Knight library is on deposit at Chawton House Library by arrangement with its current owner, Richard Knight, and the books were discovered by Samantha Carrasco and the Chawton House librarian, Jacqueline Grainger, in the course of Carrasco’s PhD research. They are described and catalogued in Carrasco 2013.

The extant books from the Jane Austen House Museum, Jenkyns and Knight collections were transferred to the Special Collections division of the Hartley Library, University of Southampton for digitisation, carried out in 2013-15 by the Hartley Library Digitisation Unit under the supervision of Dr Julian Ball. Essential cleaning and binding repair was carried out to stabilize the Jenkyns and Knight books during this period. The volumes were subsequently returned to their owners; for current locations and rights information, see the information provided for individual volumes.

This collection includes images from all of the Austen family music books whose current whereabouts are known. Two further manuscript albums, one of which includes material in Austen's hand, and an undetermined number of printed binder's volumes were in the collection of Henry Rice, another descendent of Edward Austen Knight, in the mid-1990s. The manuscript items were sold circa 1996 by the London rare book dealer Simon Finch; the current location of these volumes is unknown. Jane Austen, as well as other members of her family, must have owned many other music books that are lost or have not survived; the notice of the Steventon parsonage sale in 1801, before the family moved to Bath, specifies that a large collection of music books "by the most celebrated composers" would figure in the auction. Austen may have referred to these books in her letter of 12-13 May 1801: "sixty one Guineas & a half for the three Cows gives one some support under the blow of only Eleven Guineas for the Tables.—Eight for my Pianoforte, is about what I really expected to get; I am more anxious to know the amount of my books, especially as they are said to have sold well.’ (Letters p. 84; see also Vick 1993).

The secondary literature on the Austen music books employs a variety of numbering systems and describes the volumes in different orders. This digitisation project uses Gammie and McCulloch’s catalogue numbers (CHWJA/19/1 - 8) as shelfmarks to identify music books held by Jane Austen’s House Museum, and a number has been added to the sequence for the ninth volume not included in their catalogue. Books from the Jenkyns set have been identified using Gillaspie’s ordering (also employed by Carrasco), and the Knight volumes are numbered as they appear in Carrasco.


Carrasco, Samantha. 2013. “The Austen Family Music Books and Hampshire Music Culture, 1770-1820.” PhD thesis, University of Southampton.

Gammie, Ian, and Derek McCulloch. 1996. Jane Austen's Music. St Albans: Corda Music Publications.

Gillaspie, Jon A. (afterwards Nessa Glen). 1987. "Handlist of Austen Family Music (Manuscript and Printed) in the Possession of Mr. H.L. Jenkyns." Unpublished typescript.

Gillaspie, Jon A. (afterwards Nessa Glen). C. 1990. “Music Collections in the Austen Family with Especial Reference to the Rice Music Manuscripts.” Unpublished typescript.

Hart, Miriam F. 1999. "Hardly An Innocent Diversion: Music in the Life and Writings of Jane Austen." PhD dissertation, Ohio University.

Jenkins, Elizabeth. 1964. "Elizabeth Austen's Music Book." Report of the Jane Austen Society for 1964. In Collected Reports of the Jane Austen Society 1949-1965, 264-67. Reprint ed., Chippenham, Wiltshire: Jane Austen Society, 1996.

Le Faye, Deirdre. 1999. "Three Missing Jane Austen Songs." Notes & Queries 46: 454-55.

Libin, Kathryn L. 2013. "Daily Practice, Musical Accomplishment, and the Example of Jane Austen." In Jane Austen and the Arts: Elegance, Propriety, Harmony, edited by Natasha Duquette and Elizabeth Lenckos, 3-20. Bethlehem, PA: Lehigh University Press.

Lockwood, Elisabeth M. 1934. "Jane Austen and Some Drawing-Room Music of her Time." Music & Letters 15: 112-19.

Morgan, Elizabeth. 2009. "The Virtuous Virtuosa: Women at the Pianoforte in England, 1780-1820." PhD dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles.

Piggott, Patrick. 1979. The Innocent Diversion: A Study of Music in the Life and Writings of Jane Austen. London: Douglas Cleverdon.

Sandock, Mollie. 2001. "'I burn with contempt for my foes': Jane Austen's Music Collection and Women's Lives in Regency England." Persuasions 23: 105-17.

Sands, Mollie. 1956. "Jane Austen and her Music Books." Report of the Jane Austen Society for 1956. In Collected Reports of the Jane Austen Society 1949-1965, 91-93. Reprint ed., Chippenham, Wiltshire: Jane Austen Society, 1996.

Selwyn, David. 1999. Jane Austen and Leisure. London: Hambleden Press.

Shervington, Diana. 1972. "Jane Austen's Music Books." Report of the Jane Austen Society for 1972. In Collected Reports of the Jane Austen Society 1966-1975, 149-51. Reprint ed., Alton, Hampshire: Jane Austen Society, 1999.

Vick, Robin. "The Sale at Steventon Parsonage." Report of the Jane Austen Society for 1993. In Collected Reports of the Jane Austen Society 1986-1995, 146-49. Alton, Hampshire: Jane Austen Society, 1997.

Wallace, Robert K. 1979. "Jane Austen's Neglected Song Book." Report of the Jane Austen Society for 1979. In Collected Reports of the Jane Austen Society 1976-1985, 121-25. Reprint ed., Chippenham: Jane Austen Society, 1994.


Jane Austen Songs. 1989. Patricia Wright (soprano), Jon Gillaspie (piano). Pearl, SHE CD 9613.

The Music and Songs of Jane Austen. 1996. The Windsor Box and Fir Company. Isis Records CD025

Jane's Hand: The Jane Austen Songbooks. 1996. Mary Jane Newman (dir.), Julianne Baird (soprano), Anthony Newman (piano) et al. Vox Classics VOX 7537.

The Jane Austen Collection. 2000. Concert Royal. Divine Art 2-4107.

Jane Austen Entertains. 2001. Sara Stowe (soprano), Jenny Thomas (flute), Martin Souter (piano). Classical Communications CCL CD805.

An Innocent Diversion. 2003. Jill Nott-Bower (narrator) et al. Athene Records ATH-P41.

Jane Austen's Songbook. 2004. Julianne Baird (soprano) et al. Albany Records Troy 722.

Jane Austen Piano Favourites. 2009. Martin Souter (piano). The Gift of Music CCL CDG1234.

Begone Dull Care: Music from Jane Austen's House. 2009. Sophie Bevan (soprano), Rogers Covey-Crump (tenor), The Windsor Box & Fir Co. Danubia Discs DD006.

Dances for Jane Austen. 2011. Austen Allegros, Steven Devine and Stuart Marsden (pianos) Dolmetsch Historical Dance Society CD2011.

Entertaining Miss Austen: Newly Discovered Music from Jane Austen's Family Collection. 2011. Amanda Pitt (soprano), John Lofthouse (baritone), David Owen Norris (piano). Dutton Epoch CDLX 7271.

Written by Jeanice Brooks, University of Southampton 2015


Created on
November 18

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